I can still recall the words written on a wooden plaque hanging on my mother’s kitchen wall — “Great oaks from little acorns grow.” Although at the time I really didn’t give it much thought, as of late I’ve come to appreciate that axiom more and more.

Not long ago a friend from Ohio, Harvey, retired after a successful career in retail management. His wife hosted an elaborate retirement party for him not only celebrating his well-deserved success but his new life of fun and leisure. 

“It’s going to be one long party for me from now on,” Harvey announced to all his party goers.

It was probably six or seven months later that the same man told me in no uncertain terms, “The party’s over! If I don’t do something soon, I’ll go nuts.”

A short time later Harvey read about a family of six, including three children under the age of eight, who lost their home and everything in it in a devastating fire. While no one in the family was injured, they had little money and even less insurance and were facing homelessness.

So, Harvey, with his sound business management skills, contacted a group of his fellow retirees who would meet weekly for coffee about a fundraiser to help this family in need. In fact, their efforts were so successful, they decided to form a club — The Merry Men’s Club” — to host fundraisers to help the needy in their community. 

As Harvey explained to me, he and his fellow retirees realized that just getting together socially was not enough. They realized that life needs some depth to it and just amusing and entertaining themselves was simply not enough.

So, since 2015, the Merry Men’s club has served nearly 25 families in need around their small community.

My friend Harvey’s experience really helped me to understand that old plaque in my mom’s kitchen about how so many things in the world have had such small, unexpected beginnings but go on to greatness.

There are many examples. For instance, I understand that the very art of printing owes its origins to impressions taken from letters on the bark from a tree.

It was Galileo, I believe, who noticed a lamp hanging in a church swinging back and forth that led him to the idea of a pendulum clock.

The discovery of electricity stemmed from the day Michael Faraday observed that a piece of rubbed glass attracted small bits of paper to it.

The young children of an old spectacles maker were playing with scrap pieces of glass one day and began putting one piece in front of the other and gleefully found how far-away objects began to appear quite close. It is believed that led to the invention of the first telescope.

And so it goes that so many of life’s big things have developed from small, often unrelated origins. It’s much like a sentence I had underlined in an old book I own which was first published in 1862: “If we do every little thing that comes to us, God may out of our many littles, make a great whole.”

That certainly worked for my old and retired friend, Harvey.

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